Oaxaca al Gusto:
An Infinite Gastronomy
Let me start this off by telling you that I can’t talk about Diana Kennedy without being extremely biased. Put simply, Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks are what got me excited about cookbooks. She is why I spend so many hours reading them, and even more hours cooking from them. She is, ultimately, why I have a cookbook blog.
I grew up cooking a lot of Italian food. I’ve probably made a couple hundred gallons of marinara sauce in my life. Other cuisines were regularly consumed and often adored, but rarely ever cooked. Sure, I could throw together some gringo fajitas — but that was about as far as it went. But then, I was told about Diana Kennedy (by a person whose opinions I value greatly). So I bought a book, did some reading, and eventually prepared a recipe for pollo en salsa de fresadilla y chipotle (chicken in tomatillo-chipotle sauce). I was hooked, and immediately bought the rest of her cookbooks.
The more I cooked and the more I read, the more fascinated I became. All of a sudden, I was cooking Mexican food I had never heard of before, and preparing dishes with the freshest and best ingredients I could find (or afford). It was an exciting time for me, and it changed my perceptions of Mexican cuisine, as well as my own cooking. I realized that I could pull off more in a kitchen than I had ever expected.
But I also stumbled into some truly great cookbooks, written by a marvel of a human being. Diana Kennedy became, for me, a hero. But then, I find great heroics in 88 year-old British women who live in Mexico, and have devoted the majority of their life to uncovering and cataloging the recipes and cultures of the many diverse states of Mexico. Since publishing her tenth cookbook cookbook last year (Oaxaca al Gusto), Mrs. Kennedy is now focusing most of her time on teaching, and working to preserve the vanishing ingredients and recipes of Mexico.
A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with Mrs. Kennedy by phone. She took the call from her eco-friendly home in Michoacán, where a looming thunderstorm threatened our already shaky phone connection. Here is what transpired:
Read the interview at blogs.laweekly.com »